Already in 1882, Villa Schönthaler was the first villa of the one-of-a-kind ensemble of villas in Semmering, and was named after court sculptor Franz Schönthaler.
Franz Schönthaler was a court sculptor for the Austro-Hungarian royal family and is viewed as a major contributor to the architecture of the villas in Semmering. He picked up the interest in farmhouse architecture prevalent at his time and, together with the famous Ringstrasse architect Franz Neumann, implemented the latest research results in structural engineering from the Swiss professor Ernst Georg Gladbach in the farmhouse architecture in Semmering. He knew Semmering inside out, as he was an avid hiker and an alpinist. For this reason, he also knew where best to position a new villa or hotel. “For in the resort town of Semmering, there is more sunshine, less wind, less mist, a milder climate, and a fantastic view!” he often said.
Franz Schönthaler was also friends with Friedrich Julius Schüler and they acquired property together in Semmering.
This was the beginning of the “Semmering style”. Even back in those days, there was the romantic desire to escape the hectic pace of normal life in natural surroundings. This is why nature was captured like a theatre backdrop during construction of Villa Schönthaler. The villa is orientated such that one gets the best views of the surrounding landscape without any effort.
Villa Schönthaler was originally much smaller than it is now. Hence it bore the nickname “Holzschachtel” (wooden box). When Franz Schönthaler sold the villa to the Seybl industrial family in 1890, several expansions followed. The famous architect Hellmer-Fellner transformed the villa into a perfect combination of Alpine timber architecture and urban villa design, and it remains such to this day.
The famous Viennese Burg Theatre actor Maxi Böhm lived in and managed Villa Schönthaler in the 1980s. Before this time, it was lovingly known as the Park Villa. Already then, famous actors stayed in the villa – such as Romy Schneider and Alain Delon.
The railway line from Vienna to Semmering dates back to 1850. Ever since, the Viennese have been able to take day trips to Semmering and the Alps. The Semmering Railway was designed and inaugurated by Carl von Ghega and was the first standard-gauge mountain railway line to be built in Europe. Both the locomotive engineering involved and the route of the “Semmeringbahn” itself are considered to be milestones in the history of railways.
Nowadays the resort town of Semmering is being awakening with fresh ideas and new concepts.